How To Be A Considerate Tourist When Visiting Israel

A trip to Israel can be a remarkable experience for travelers. It's a destination steeped in a rich history that's defined by varied cultural and religious practices too. Making the very most of your meaningful journey while being a considerate tourist begins by looking into Israel's past before stepping within its borders.

Understanding the dynamic cultural, religious, and historical differences that exist across Israel benefits your travel experience in many ways. It sheds light on the variations in expectations you'll come across as you move throughout Israel making you a more mindful visitor. It also provides insight into the relevance of landmarks that are considered significant by different groups. Places like Jericho are important among Christians and Jewish populations in Israel. Destinations like Temple Mount and Dome of the Rock are also holy among Muslim populations. Understanding the significance provides important insight for guests.

The influences across modern Israel are closely linked to the ancient world. When you travel here, you'll experience a place where the influences of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam alike are strong. Being a considerate tourist means respecting religious and cultural practices of all kinds and scheduling your sightseeing accordingly.

For example, if your trip focuses on areas of Israel primarily hosting Orthodox Jewish residents, you'll need to plan around Shabbat. This religious practice begins at sunset each Friday and goes until sunset on Saturday. It's a day of rest when businesses are shuttered and public transportation halts.

Food and apparel considerations

The cultural and religious values in Israel affect culinary options. As a tourist, understanding this can help you choose meals respectfully. It can also lead to experiencing a wide variety of flavors and dishes.

In Israel, kosher foods are those deemed religiously suitable under Jewish dietary law. Jewish religious law forbids pork consumption and requires meat and dairy products to be separately served. You can expect kosher restaurants to be closed over Shabbat and in restaurants, you will likely not come across many dishes with meat and dairy mixed.

Islamic dietary rules are also closely followed throughout Israel. Suitable foods are referred to as halal. In halal restaurants in Israel, you won't find any pork on the menu as it's expressly forbidden.

No matter where you dine in Israel, be prepared to bring your appetite. It's considered good form to finish your plate and somewhat rude to leave food behind. If you're offered additional servings, feel free to accept as this is considered a sign of gratitude to the chef.

Another important aspect of traveling through Israel considerately is making sure your wardrobe is respectful regarding both religious and cultural customs. If you're visiting sacred landmarks among the orthodox populations like the Western Wall in Jerusalem, sleeves that fall below the elbow, as well as pants or a long skirt, are recommended attire. When visiting mosques, female travelers will be required to cover their heads with a scarf as well before entering.

Helpful customs to put into practice

According to The Jerusalem Post, the country welcomed around nearly 2.7 million tourists in 2022. Being part of such a large group of visitors makes it even more important to understand customs specific to Israel to ensure a smooth and successful stay. Being aware of some of these norms can also help you connect with the local culture.

English is taught starting in elementary school in Israel and as a result, is widely spoken by residents. However, the country's official languages are Hebrew and Arabic. You'll certainly be able to get by using English, but attempting greetings in Hebrew or Arabic, at a minimum, can show a great level of respect while traveling through.

If you're invited to someone's home for dinner in Israel, it's customary to bring a gift along. If the home practices Judaism, flowers, fruits, or wine are acceptable gifts to give your hosts. If you're enjoying dinner in a Muslim household, be sure to avoid giving any alcohol as gifts. You'll also want to be sure to present your gifts to your host using your right hand or both hands as the left hand is considered unclean within Islamic code.

Tipping appropriately is an important part of being a considerate tourist in any country and Israel is no exception to the rule. Here, leaving a tip isn't required, but it's definitely expected. It's customary to leave a 10% to 12% tip in cash with 15% being the standard for excellent service.